Recently someone asked me if I had any interest in writing reviews of restaurants. I said I was on the fence about it because having worked in restaurants for so many years I felt that I'd have a hard time taking putting the public interest above that of the people who actually worked in restaurants. I've never been on the bad end of a review but I know I lost many nights of sleep worrying that I would. So I'm not sure I like the idea of being in the position of ruining some hard working chef's reputation with a withering public critique of his taste and technique.
I've also had some very limited experience of writing reviews and the blowback really gave me pause to think that I may not be entirely comfortable with the genre.
Lately my memory seems to be suffering the effects of age and having more things to take care of than it was originally coded to accommodate, so I may be a little fuzzy on the details. But I wrote a review of Restaurant Daniel in the CIA school paper in, I believe, 1994. The review was pretty positive overall. I praised the quality of the cooking but wrote that the service was arrogant, dismissive of diners who were not repeat customers and celebrities, and that the menu's claim to feature "seasonal" ingredients was misleading at best. (I couldn't understand by what definition of the word "season" "raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, mache and other summer produce become seasonal in December.) I expected to catch some flak from a few of my colleagues or perhaps the school administration (neither ever happened) but was totally unprepared to learn that one of my students, who was an extern at Daniel, showed the review to Daniel Boulud, and now the chef wanted by ass on his flat top.
But honestly, I don't know what to think. I mean, a very good case could be made for the assertion that the overall effect of restaurant critics has been very good for the business and for the people who work in them. And having a few famous enemies can be good for a career -it sure hasn't hurt Frank Bruni. This guy has more enemies than George W Bush. (No, that can't be. How about more enemies than Al Sharpton?) Anyway, there are a lot of people who don't like and even hate, Frank Bruni but he sure tracks a lot of attention in the cyberspace and elsewhere. Check out this article from the New York Observer that addresses the age old question of whether of not a food critic can close a restaurant but which ends up talking mostly about Frank Bruni. Amazing. You go Frankie !
Feel the Bruni Effect, New York! | The New York Observer